13 Councils, 2million-plus residents: a unified voice to tackle homelessness

Thirteen Councils representing two million residents in Melbourne’s east and south east have joined together in a unified voice calling for urgent action for more social housing* to end homelessness.

They want more housing as the first step to address the often complex social and health needs of the region’s most vulnerable community members.

Providing a safe home first, as part of a broader social housing framework, is the way to stem the increase in homelessness. Only then can the compounding set of circumstances which leads to homelessness be properly addressed to enable better outcomes for vulnerable people facing extreme adversity.

Homelessness is more likely to affect those most vulnerable in our society including women and children fleeing family violence, people with a disability, people living with a mental health condition, people living in poverty and marginalised groups.

The alliance of Councils have adopted a Charter to guide this campaign. The Regional Local Government Homelessness & Social Housing Charter 2020 ( PDF 1.17MB) was determined following a forum of CEOs and senior staff from all councils, initiated by Monash Council in November 2019 and attended by housing providers, peak bodies and state government. Nova, a homelessness advocate who has a lived experience of homelessness as a result of family violence, shared her powerful and moving story with forum attendees.

The forum’s focus was informed by research Monash Council commissioned through the Council to Homeless Persons, ‘Making a Difference – effective local government responses to homelessness.’ This research identifies that the single most powerful way councils can contribute to preventing and ending homelessness is to advocate for the increased supply of social housing across Victoria.

The Regional Local Government Homelessness & Social Housing Charter 2020 prioritises three regional commitments which the 13 Councils will act on:

  • Work in partnership with federal and state government, public and private sector partners in a coordinated approach to deliver meaningful outcomes to increase the provision of social housing and respond to homelessness in east and south east Melbourne
  • Scope land within each LGA that has the potential to be re-purposed for adaptable housing needs
  • Advocate together for inclusive housing growth including mandatory inclusionary zoning

Whitehorse Mayor, Cr Sharon Ellis said local government officers are most often the first responders to people experiencing homelessness in local communities. The issue is increasing since the COVID-19 crisis, which has further pushed vulnerable people into crisis, especially women and children experiencing family violence and those on low incomes. These include the ‘new vulnerable,’ people who have lost jobs and homes as a result of COVID-19, creating an escalation in the number of people experiencing homelessness and crisis, many for the first time.

“A safe home is fundamental for recovery and safety,” Cr Ellis said.

“Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head, a door they can lock and a place where they feel secure and safe. A place to call home. This is a fundamental and basic right.

“All 13 Councils are committed to working together to see change in social housing provision. Never has it been more important”.

The Local Government areas that form this collective are:

City of Casey, City of Cardinia, Frankston City Council, City of Greater Dandenong, Knox City Council, City of Kingston, Manningham City Council, City of Monash, Maroondah City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire, City of Whitehorse, Yarra Ranges Council and Bayside Council.

This group is supported by Eastern Affordable Housing Alliance [EAHA], Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Eastern Region Group of Councils [ERG] and the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS).

* Social housing refers to housing owned either by the State Government or by not-for-profit community housing providers that is rented to low income households at either 25% (public housing) or 30% (community housing) of household income.

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